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The Thais are protesting the destruction of taboos, but so far they are producing little change




BANGKOK In unison, anti-government protesters on Wednesday called the King of Thailand a giant monitoring lizard, one of the worst things that can be said about anyone in Thai, and bus stops and paint sidewalks in capitals in the central business district with graffiti depicting sexual activity.

The insults demonstrated the increased courage of protesters in a country where criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, 68, could be a criminal offense, and the security apparatus has a history of destroying dissent. They have rallied in thousands across Thailand for months, demanding that the military-linked prime minister resign and that the constitutional monarchy actually enter under the Constitution.

As demonstrators pushed toward the gates of Thailand’s Parliament on Tuesday, one of their leaders, Arnon Nampa, stood in a truck that doubled as a stage and rejected a bold ultimatum to the nations that rule the elite.

One day, if there is no reform, we will revolt, said Mr. Arnon, a human rights lawyer, amid tear gas.

The establishment has advised patience. Last month, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general who came to power during a military coup six years ago, issued an emergency decree targeting protests. He acknowledged that spraying water cannons on young protesters was not the most productive strategy, and said Parliament needed time to do its part in tackling reform.

But on Wednesday, Parliament passed its verdict: Some parts of the Constitution may be changed in the coming months, but not some parts related to the monarchy.

Hours earlier, on Tuesday evening, police again used water cannons to spray protesters with liquid linked to corrosive agents. Dozens of people were hospitalized, some with bullet wounds. And Mr Prayuth remains prime minister.

Mr Arnon, who has been charged with multiple counts of insurgency and other crimes that could put him in jail for decades, expressed little surprise at the state of the game.

For all the dynamism of the protesters, they have put humor, logistical skills and very high rubber grades to defend against water cannons, the demonstrations so far have catalyzed little change in the way Thailand is governed.

If the house is very dilapidated, we should not fix it, Mr Arnon said in an interview Wednesday. We have absolutely no hope of reforming the monarchy through Parliament.

And so, he added, the rallies will now focus directly on the protesters’ most burning demands: curbing the powers of one of the world’s richest and most powerful monarchies.

Now, we fight face to face, said Mr. Arnon. There is no hidden agenda.

Protests on Wednesday were chanted with the slogan If we burn, you burn with us. Several demonstrators, who had been ignited by the use of tear gas and water cannons the day before, threw buckets of paint at police headquarters and covered nearby signs with denunciations from Mr Prayuth and the king.

Just down the road, a spray-painted sign announced in English: The king is dead. Long live the people! A man urinated in a bottle and threw it at police officers standing trained behind protest shields.

Protected by some of the world’s strictest anti-defamation laws, the Thai monarchy has passed in a few months from an untouchable institution, whispered only privately, to the topic of open criticism.

Protesters have questioned why King Maha Vajiralongkorn has spent most of his reign outside Thailand. Their taxes, they note, finance his stay in Europe. His complex family arrangements are the source of ridicule. (Last year, he married his fourth wife, called another woman royal wife, then purged his wife for trying to stage the queen. He restored her status in September.)

After all, protesters have called for an investigation into the billions of dollars worth of crowns, which are now under the personal control of kings. He also brought major military units under his command, with forces considered loyal to him quickly promoted.

Led by students and other young people, the Thai protest movement has embraced a range of issues, advocating for gay rights and labor unions, and calling for an end to strict school rules and a product tax. menstrual.

But protesters are increasingly directly condemning the monarchy even though it has been expressed as a push for reform rather than as an action to overthrow the entire institution has shocked some Thais. On Tuesday, demonstrators held a large balloon with the phrase: We told you to be under the Constitution. This directive to the monarch used the lower form of you, in a language that reflects multiple scales of the social hierarchy.

The language used was something that is unacceptable to Thais, said Warong Dechgitvigrom, a prominent royal. They are not actions for reform, rather they are actions to overthrow the monarchy.

As they blazed on Tuesday and Wednesday, it was hard to see room for political compromise. Protesters have called for another mass rally within weeks.

I would lie to myself if I said hope, and I would also lie to myself if I said there is no hope, said Rangsiman Roma, an opposition lawmaker who tried unsuccessfully to push through some of the most controversial constitutional amendments. Wednesday.

In the background there are fears that security forces may crack down on protesters, as they have done with fatal force in many cases. There are also concerns that the military could launch a coup, as has happened a dozen times since the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932.

The palace itself has been largely silent on the protests. King Maha Vajiralongkorn returned from Germany last month and has been in Thailand for weeks, a rarity.

On Tuesday, around the same time as water cannons began firing on protesters in Bangkok, he attended the graduation ceremony for a police cadet school in which he urged graduates to gain the trust and confidence of other people.

Three days ago, he attended the opening ceremony for a new electric railway line in Bangkok, named in honor of his official coronation last year. After greeting the lovers, signing autographs and accepting money donations from them a break from the most common way in which he had treated the public the king settled in the seats of the train carriage with his queen.

At their feet knelt a string of men in white uniforms, a symbol of submission to Thailand’s modern constitutional monarchy.

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